All the right pieces
SELF-DESCRIBED “ENGINE NUT” PHILIP WRIGHT – the new general manager of Cummins New Zealand – was originally a mechanic by trade…and he approaches life from a practical, hands-on perspective.
“If all the right pieces are there and you put something together correctly, it works. That applies to business too.”
Australian Wright has been with Cummins for 23 years – longer than he’s been married. In his time with the world’s largest independent diesel engine manufacturer, he’s worked his way up from technician to service manager, on to branch manager…and all the way to the top job in NZ.
He puts his interest in engines down to his father: “I grew up around trucks. My Dad and uncle had a milktanker business in New South Wales.
“My Mum was adamant that I do an apprenticeship before joining the family business. By the time I got a chance to go back, the dairy industry was deregulated” – so he went to work for Cummins.
“My Dad always had Cummins engines, so the company was a natural fit.”
His move from Australia to NZ to take on the GM role here sees Wright happy to embrace a new adventure. He cites the primary challenge for the trucking industry as the decline in skilled workers.
“Different generations have different expectations,” he comments: “The younger generation don’t want to build
up as apprentices anymore. They want to start at the top.”
To compensate for this, he says, Cummins has had to change its perspective and its recruitment approach, broadening the demographic pool and embracing diversity – employing more women, for instance.
“As part of this approach we spend time in schools promoting the industry. We have dedicated apprentice managers, training providers and internal trainers committed to the process.”
As for how Cummins will continue to thrive in the industry as more truckmakers take engine manufacture in-house, Wright points out that “we provide solutions and make it easy for manufacturers to sell our product. Added to that, customer loyalty is always a strong point.”
He emphasises though, that in terms of manufacture, the focus thus far has been driven by exhaust emissions regulations – and there is only “so much” that can still be done to reduce the emissions from diesel combustion engines and to improve their fuel efficiency.
Which means looking to alternative power sources:
“If we don’t want to go the way of Kodak, the future is in electrification. We have already done a proof of concept of an electric truck but need to find a way to commercialise that.
“We are turning our focus to new technologies to benefit customers. It’s an exciting time.”
Nonetheless, Cummins will always be a powertrain provider: “It comes down to horses for courses. We will keep offering whatever customers need, be it electric, diesel or a hybrid of the two.”
In terms of its diesel offering, the company recently rebranded its 15 litre engine as the X15 – and that’s performing well, says Wright. It is also trialling the Euro 6 version of the 15 litre engine in Australia at the moment.
Another plus for the future is that Cummins engines are manufactured around the world and the economy of scale helps profitability: “We are global now – no longer just a US company – and we have the global strengths that come with that.”
He adds that the South Pacific market is seen as a testing ground: “If something’s going to break, it will be here.”
Cummins’ business in NZ is, of course, about sales, parts and service – not manufacture: “Supplying engines to the automotive space, we partner with consultants and suppliers via our three company-owned locations in Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and Palmerston North. We also have a supportive dealer network.”
He says the local challenge will continue to be about driving efficiency through the transport sector: “Part of that will be technology and other aspects will include infrastructure improvement and government strategy around transport solutions.”
He explains that in Australia, as consumption has increased in major centres, products arriving at a port tend to be consumed within that area – “so the role of freight has changed in the past 10 years. In NZ the population is smaller and there are still distribution centres away from the ports.”
And NZ’s growing export trade means a continuing reliance on road transport and its likely growth, in line with export demand.
Wright points out that Cummins will be 100 years old next year – but still maintains the strong values its founders embraced: “That’s what’s kept me here for 23 years. It’s not just about making a profit – it’s about the employees, the customers, the environment….even community work.
“This place aligns with my own morals and values.
It’s been a big part of my life and given me lots of opportunities,” says Wright.
His philosophy is that if y ou look after the customer and your employees, the business will look after itself: “Any business is only as good as its people,” he says. T&D
New Cummins NZ boss Philip Wright says he got his love of engines from his Dad (who he’s with below), who ran a milktanker eet in New South Wales when Philip was a kid
Above left: Wright receives an award from the NSW Rural Fire Service on behalf of CumminsAbove right: Wright says Cummins will always be a powertrain supplier – be that electric, diesel or hybrid